A World Rally Championship round in the United Kingdom next year is “unlikely” as the series plans to finalise the 2024 calendar next month.
The WRC is working on an expanded 14-round calendar for next year with the aim of adding a desert based-round in Saudi Arabia.
The championship continues to harbour a wish to return to the UK, which has been absent from the WRC schedule since the 2019 Wales Rally GB.
A bid fronted by promoter Bobby Willis to bring the WRC back to the UK in Northern Ireland has made three attempts to join the calendar - in 2021, 2022 and 2023 - but was unable to secure the necessary funding, believed to be approximately £3 million.
This project has been revived in the hope that funding can be secured to join the 2024 calendar. An initial deadline of April to secure the necessary requirements was pushed back to May.
The matter of securing government funding for a UK WRC round was raised in Prime Minister’s Questions the House of Commons last week by Greg Smith - MP for Buckingham and the co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Motorsport.
Smith urged the government to underwrite £1m to help the project that he explained would generate in excess of £100m to the economy.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak responded, stating: “Northern Ireland is a fantastic place to host international events and I’m delighted my Honourable Friend shares my enthusiasm for driving forward prosperity in Northern Ireland.
“But with tourism though being devolved in Northern Ireland, it is best he engages with Tourism NI on this potential event, and I look forward to hearing how he gets on.”
The WRC has since provided an update on the situation surrounding the Rally UK project, explaining that the championship is reaching a crunch point regarding its 2024 calendar.
“The fact that, that question had to be tabled in Prime Minister’s Questions shows that no substantial progress has been made. We are getting to the crunch point when that is going to be unviable,” WRC event director Simon Larkin told Motorsport.com.
“We intend to finalise the calendar during July.
When asked if the event was unlikely to feature on the 2024 schedule, Larkin replied: “It is unlikely at this point.”
The 2024 calendar is already starting to take shape with Monte Carlo, Sweden, Portugal, Acropolis, Kenya, the Central European Rally, Sardinia and Chile contracted for 2024, while Finland and Japan are also expected to remain on the schedule.
Latvia has already been announced as a new addition for next year which is set to replace Estonia.
This leaves only question marks surrounding Croatia and Mexico.
The former is understood to be in talks for a new multi-year deal while Mexico’s future depends on the WRC’s plans for its second event in the Americas.
The WRC is evaluating the prospect of adding the USA to it schedule for the first since 1988 following a proposal for an all-new event based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The organisers held a demonstration event in April that was deemed a success, with a candidate event planned for September.
However, a decision regarding the Rally USA’s future will be taken next month before the candidate event.
Larkin has also revealed that the WRC has received two proposals from Argentina, which is also vying for the final Americas slot.
“We were never planning to wait for the [Rally USA] candidate event and we will make a decision, and we will probably still run the candidate event in September that is our intention, but we will make that decision in July. The candidate event is being run for either 2024 or 2025,” he added.
“It will be two [events] in the Americas so that can be Chile and the US, Chile and Mexico or Chile and Argentina.
“There will be two events in the Americas and there is stiff competition. As we have always said we have to make a decision on the US for 2024 or 2025, before we can secure a contract for the second event in the Americas and that will happen next month.
“There is more than one proposal from Argentina.”